It’s an all too familiar scenario.
You excitedly bring home your first baby, full of love, hope and anticipation – only to find that by bringing a new little person into your relationship, your own partnership with each other starts to deteriorate. In fact, research has shown that most new parents will experience a huge increase in arguing and fighting during the first weeks and months of becoming a family, and this in turn leads to almost 70 per cent of new parents becoming permanently unhappy within their relationship.
There are many reasons for this potential drop in happiness, but let’s explore the role that intimacy and sex has during your transition to parenthood – and how this can affect the long-term success of your relationship.
According to Dr John Gottman, from the Gottman Institute, for any relationship to be successful, it is critical for a couple to maintain intimacy. Yet for so many couples, when you bring a new baby home, it is usually the first thing that goes out the window. Intimacy and sex take a back seat to the countless number of changes that are occurring at breakneck speed within your life now that you have become a family.
And along with nappies, feeding, laundry and visitors – new parents are also experiencing exhaustion, sleep deprivation, stress, hormonal changes, body image, pain – and all of these factors contribute to the inevitable withdrawal of your physical and emotional connections with each other as new parents, yet so many couples do not realise the importance of maintaining an exclusive alliance with each other during the first year of parenthood and beyond.
Your degree of intimacy as a couple is what sets you apart from being ‘just friends’, and once you start to lose that exclusive connection with each other – it can often be too difficult to reinstate as time goes on.
When having a new baby, most couples openly acknowledge that their intimacy has indeed declined, yet for 66 per cent of participants in a survey on intimacy after baby, they reported that their relationship with their baby was ‘more important’ than their relationship with their partner.
Dr Gottman has a different view. He believes ‘your relationship matters MORE now that you have a baby – because now you have others DEPENDING on you’. Everyone has a dream of having happy children, but happy children can only develop from happy parents that have a strong emotional connection to each other. The greatest gift you can give your baby is a strong connection between the two of you!
So – while sex and intimacy might seem like one of the more indispensable tasks on any new parents ‘to do list’, it is indeed one of the most important things you can focus on to ensure you do not lose your sense of being a couple – now that you are parents. You do not need to sacrifice one – for the other.
As mentioned earlier – for any relationship to be successful – it is crucial for a couple to maintain intimacy. And it is here we need to differentiate between intimacy and intercourse. After having a baby, the general consensus is to wait about six weeks after giving birth to resume intercourse. Most couples wait for the go ahead from their OBGYN at their 6-week check-up, then WOO HOO, it should all be on like Donkey Kong! But there are still many factors that may affect resuming sex even after this time. So – while intercourse may be off the table for a period of time, there is no time more important than right now to develop a strong connection of intimacy with each other.
So – what can you do to keep intimacy alive while you are navigating your new role as a family?
10 things new parents need to keep intimacy alive
1. Know that intimacy is important
The first step is for you both to realise how important intimacy is for maintaining the quality of your relationship. It is as important as feeding or changing the baby.
2. Realise that intimacy doesn’t just mean sex
Next, realise there is a difference between intercourse and intimacy. Just because you can’t have intercourse doesn’t mean you can’t be intimate. Holding, kissing, stroking and spooning are all wonderful ways to maintain closeness. There are so many ways to be affectionate that are non-sexual. Yet all equally important.
Find ways to talk about how you are both feeling, what your needs are, and how you can BOTH accommodate each other’s needs. Communication during this time is key to making this work.
4. Make intimacy a priority every day
Do not let your connection with each other grow weak. The more you create intimacy, the more trust and friendship evolves, then ultimately, sex will naturally resume in time.
5. Don’t let tiredness stop you
Try not to allow being tired to be a reason to not be intimate. Recognise that as new parents, you are going to be tired for a long time. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes to ‘get in the mood’.
6. Don’t make sex the last chore of the day.
Mornings, lunch and afternoons can be just as much fun.
7. Plan it
Remember, sex is rarely spontaneous. Sometimes a little planning can go a long way.
8. Schedule it
Scheduling sex can be a super way to ensure you remain connected.
9. Have date nights
I know you have heard this before, but maintaining a priority to spend quality time together as a couple is essential!
10. Avoid excuses
Avoid the ‘yes buts’ when it comes to scheduling sex and date nights. Excuses are easy to fall victim to. Commit to making your relationship work.
With a bit of attention, planning and commitment, keeping intimacy alive will indeed keep your relationship alive.